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Making a difference

Grab the 15-year-old skating down the streets in downtown Brainerd and put him in a room with the elderly gentleman watering his front lawn in the same downtown Brainerd area and odds are there may be little they have in common.

The conversation may lead to what the town was like in “his day” and the teen might bring back some youthful memories but the differences between the two are palpable. But there is one bond that elders and youth in this community have in common. A similarity that outweighs any difference; Brainerd is their town.

“If youth starts taking ownership in to their community and start buying in to the fact that this isn’t just a place where their parents live but it’s their community and they’re a part of that, I think it will help out (Brainerd) tremendously,” said Luke Morcomb, an Americorps member who is organizing a youth cleanup day Friday in downtown Brainerd. “I think it’s a very important thing to have these kids involved in a service like that.”

As a member of Americorps, Morcomb said that part of his duties include coordinating the local part of a Global Youth Service Day, which Morcomb added will kickoff with Friday’s cleanup.

Also a board member at The Shop — a Brainerd/Baxter youth center for kids ages 12 through 22 located on Eighth Street in Brainerd — Morcomb decided to first ask those kids, what can they do to change this community. A question that he said yielded plenty of ideas.

“When I asked them, ‘how would you change this community and what don’t you like about it?’ they basically told me that there was little they in fact liked,” said Morcomb, a native of Brainerd. “So I thought well good then. there is plenty of room to work with toward a change.”

Morcomb said everyone agreed that a cleanup in downtown Brainerd was needed.

Interested youth are asked to meet at The Shop at 4 p.m. and be prepared to work “until the job gets done,” splitting up in to teams to tackle the downtown area. Morcomb added that they are going to track and record what was picked up and where and give that information to the city.

Morcomb said the cleanup will also be the start of an incentive program The Shop is starting for Brainerd youths.

“One idea that came up while we were talking about the cleanup was a reward service,” Morcomb said. “Kids who volunteer something like five hours a month will be able to earn discounts from local partnering businesses.

“It’s another way to get the youth active in the community.”

And Morcomb said being active in the community can help close that gap between kids and seniors. Working toward the common goal of a better Brainerd town.

“Not only would I like the kids to take notice of the community that they live in, but I hope the community notices the kids taking part in helping better the community (with this cleanup), too,” Morcomb said.

“A kid isn’t going to go and spray paint or graffiti something they think they are a part of and own. By taking this step in the cleanup they are taking a step in saying what goes on in this town. And I think that’s pretty cool.”

JESSI PIERCE may be reached at 855-5859 or Follow her on Twitter at (@jessi_pierce).